In May, my boyfriend of three years and I went our separate ways. No breakup is ever fun, but this one was especially difficult because it was the longest and most serious relationship I’d ever been in. We’d gone on trips together and met each others’ families. I’ve had almost four months to move on, but this article from College Candy reminded me about everything all over again. Granted, getting over a first-ever boyfriend is really different than getting over a I-thought-we-were-going-to-get-engaged late 20s romance, but every breakup shares elements in common, and broken hearts aren’t a contest. So here are some of my own, personally tried-and-true techniques.
- Keep your calendar full. The more time I spent alone, the more time I spent thinking about what my ex and I would have been doing or talking about. So I reached out to my close friends, reconnected with acquaintances, accepted every invitation I was sent, and did my best to keep my social calendar full. One, it kept me busy so I wouldn’t start reminiscing about my relationship or obsessing over something I said; and two, I got to spend time with people I cared about.
- Remember all the things that make you you. When you’re in a relationship it’s easy to think in the “we.” While I was dating my ex, I feigned interest in his hobbies so that we could do stuff together. Once I was single again, I made sure to spend time doing stuff that I loved – reading, yoga, watching Murder, She Wrote reruns on Netflix.
- Don’t get mad at yourself. For awhile, I was trapped in this really weird cycle – I would get all nostalgic, have a little bit of a pity party, and then stop halfway through and get mad at myself for being sad. Going through a grieving/letting go process is normal, and you shouldn’t try to squelch your feelings. Process them now, and you’ll save yourself a lot of anguish later. One thing I did was repeat a favorite quote to myself every time I would get angry: “The way forward is with a broken heart.” (That’s from Alice Walker.)
- Don’t try to erase the past. Couples who spend a long time together tend to accumulate a lot of shared baggage – vacation pictures, borrowed clothes, anniversary gifts. While it’s really tempting to take everything he ever touched and burn it in the street (although, if he did something really terrible, like being physically abusive, you can light a match and I’ll be right there with you), you can’t erase history. Remember the good times and the bad ones. You can’t cut out an entire period of your life, and a happy memory should stay a happy memory, even if the person you made the memory with isn’t in your life anymore.
- Get away. A change of scenery can do wonders to clear your head. You don’t need to spend six months backpacking through Europe. Spend a weekend visiting your family and catching up with old friends, or head to a meditation retreat where you can relax and redirect your energy. If you can’t find time to get out of town, try this: one thing I did was call a close friend from high school, who I only get to see in person about twice a year, and ask her how her kids were doing. I spent about an hour listening to her cute, funny stories about her toddlers. It was nice to catch up, and it also reminded me that there was more to life than me and my problems.
- Write in private. There have been really beautiful poems, novels, and blog posts about breakups. However, if you really want to be honest about your feelings you should write them down in a place where no one else can see them. Once you put something online, it’s out there forever, and you don’t want to either self-censor or say things you’ll regret later. Feel free to publish your thoughts eventually … once you’ve had time to edit.
The way forward is with a broken heart, but it’s also with a full one. While ending a relationship isn’t a fun process, it also isn’t the end of your life. Take the good and the bad, be honest with yourself, and soon enough you’ll find yourself miles ahead.